Covid-19: Should I quarantine after contact with a coronavirus case? Will a tracker call me? All the rules of the “new normal” | Society
Spain is once again approaching the so-called new normal. The country has entered a new year of work and school with most of the population vaccinated against Covid-19 and coronavirus cases on a downward trend. There will always be new infections, epidemics and quarantines, but the rules of the game have changed. While basic protective measures such as the use of face masks, social distancing and hand washing remain in place, the rules regarding when close contacts vaccinated should self-isolate have become more flexible. This means that there will be a dramatic drop in the number of close contacts that need to be quarantined, as almost 75% of the population in Spain is fully vaccinated.
Given the high vaccination coverage and the fact that the cumulative number of cases over 14 days per 100,000 population has now fallen to 109, experts estimate the likelihood that Spain will experience a new wave of coronavirus as severe as the previous ones. is very weak. But that does not mean that the country must lower its guard, says Salvador Peiró, epidemiologist at the Valencian Government Foundation for the Promotion of Health and Biomedical Research. “We are at a time of uncertainty, we do not know how the transmission will evolve. We expect a slight increase at the end of the month, but we hope it will be less serious in view of the damage it causes. Vaccination has not ceased to be important when it comes to transmission, so we will need to be guided by the data and take action. “
Vaccination protects a person from developing a severe case of Covid-19 and helps limit the spread of the virus. But that does not prevent a person from contracting the disease: an individual can be fully vaccinated and still be infected. Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said in July that 5.5% of positive cases detected in the previous five weeks received the full protection offered by vaccines. Daniel López-Acuña, former director of emergencies for the World Health Organization (WHO), believes that the population must remain on alert, despite the high vaccination rates, and says that containing the pandemic will go towards an “appropriate control of epidemics ”.
In recent months, changes have been made to the way the pandemic is controlled, and the new school and professional year started in September with a very different framework than last year. Here is a guide to the measures in place to control the spread of the coronavirus if a positive case is detected.
Positive cases at work or in public. If a person tests positive for Covid-19, they will need to self-isolate for at least 10 days. This rule has not changed. What has changed are the rules for close contact with positive cases. While close contacts also had to be quarantined for 10 days during most of the pandemic, since last June this now only applies to unvaccinated people. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated or who have conquered the disease in the past six months do not have to self-isolate, although the Department of Health recommends that they get tested at least once in the following days. .
With the vast majority of the population fully immune, this measure will mean there will be far fewer quarantines among close contacts. Experts, however, are concerned about this decision and insist that close contacts vaccinated should always be very careful. “I have a lot of doubts about this measure. I feel the same about all the measures that are different for those who are vaccinated. I think it is delicate because we know that the vaccinated can be infected ”, explains Salvador Peiró, who adds that it is nevertheless necessary to closely monitor the contacts even if they are negative. Experts also recommend that people exempt from quarantine limit their social interactions for a few days as a preventive measure.
Positive cases at school. As was the case the previous school year, if a student tests positive for Covid-19, they must self-isolate for at least 10 days. If it is a suspected case – that is, the student has compatible symptoms and is waiting to be tested – they are not allowed to attend class until they are has not received a negative test result. As is the rule for the general population, close contacts of positive cases will need to be quarantined for 10 days, unless they are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months. In this school year, a student will not have to self-isolate if they meet either of these conditions, although they will have to take two tests – one at the start of their forties and another one a week. after their last contact with the confirmed case, according to Ministry of Health protocols.
The regions, in charge of the vaccination campaign and the containment of the pandemic on their territory, have a certain margin to act within the framework of these protocols. Catalonia, for example, on Tuesday approved a decree that gives high school Covid officials access to information about fully vaccinated students and those who are not, in order to manage class quarantines if a positive case is detected. . This does not apply to elementary schools because no Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for children under 12. The Basque Country and Valencia, on the other hand, do not provide schools with vaccine information.
Face masks. Since June, wearing a face mask is only mandatory in confined spaces – the covering can be removed outside if a social distance of 1.5 meters can be maintained. Until that month, it was mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor and outdoor public spaces. In schools, blankets remain mandatory for students over six, although health ministry protocols say they can be removed during certain outdoor activities. In Catalonia, for example, pupils can remove their face masks during recess, if they are only with members of their class bubble.
López-Acuña says information about the benefits of the preventive measure should be strengthened so that no one lets their guard down. “It’s important not to spread a false sense of security,” he explains.
Trackers. If a suspected case of coronavirus is detected, the epidemiological surveillance services strive to find possible close contacts. “Anyone identified as a close contact must be informed and active or passive surveillance will begin, following protocols established in each region,” says the protocol from the Ministry of Health.
Experts say follow-up will be “fundamental” to keeping the pandemic under control. “We cannot relax epidemiological surveillance, monitoring and diagnostic testing measures if we are to contain the pandemic. Containment will be achieved now with proper control of outbreaks and tracking and tracers are important in stopping transmission. “
Outbreaks. Any group of three or more active cases in which an epidemiological link has been established is considered an epidemic. Experts warn that such episodes will continue to be detected in workplaces and schools, given that a large percentage of students are not vaccinated.
For more localized outbreaks, experts recommend using mass testing as a tool for early detection. Peiró, however, warns that this strategy “only makes sense in concrete cases associated with specific epidemics”, when there is a high prevalence of the coronavirus in a certain group and the likelihood of finding asymptomatic cases is very high.
english version by Melissa Kitson.